Oddly, before Saturday, I hadn’t _raced_ a half marathon in three years. Yes, THREE! I’ve run four half marathons (raced two of them) in that period of time, but the last half marathon I did outside of Disney World or Disneyland and wasn’t just for fun was three years ago, April 2012. That’s before I even decided to transition! Really, I guess it’s just because I don’t run a lot of races and I’ve been staying focused on the marathon, but I don’t think this is doing my any favors. In order to get better at the marathon, I need to be running half marathons too.
Enter the Asbury Park Half Marathon at RunAPalooza.
I was back-and-forth on whether or not I wanted to do this race. Last year, it was the day before the New Jersey Marathon and my wife ran it–she massively PRed! The race seemed reasonably well put together and it’s not too far away, so it seemed like a good candidate for a tune-race. Plus, it fell on a 16-mile long run day this year. Perfect!
I woke up around 5:30–which is roughly when I wake up most weekday mornings these days–and was able to hop right out of bed. I wasn’t quite feeling energized, but I had no trouble getting up. I got dressed real quick, ate some oatmeal, and ran out the door. Unfortunately, I ended up being a few minutes behind schedule thanks to forgetting my glasses and having to head back to the house to get them and needing to stop for gas. Still, I made it down to Asbury Park in good time.
I parked and ran into the Convention Hall to grab my bib. Since I had 16 miles on the schedule, I wanted to knock out a three-mile warmup before the race. As I was throwing my bib on, my friend Lauren saw me and came over to say hi. We had planned to run the race together so we had to meet up anyway. After a quick hello, we set a meeting spot and I went out for my warmup. My timing ended up being pretty close to perfect and I finished my warmup with less than ten minutes to go before the race. Lauren and I quickly found each other again and snagged our spot in the corral.
Lauren wanted to keep around an 8:10 pace which sounded good to me. Ideally, that pace shouldn’t be too difficult for me right now. My only real concern was the weather. Last year, the weather was cool, but super windy. This year was nothing like that. The high for the day was set to be near 80 and the wind didn’t even exist. None of us East Coasters are anywhere near acclimated to that kind of warmth yet.
Anyway, after a couple minutes in the corral, the race started and we were off. We quickly found our pace and settled right in. Our race strategy was pretty simple, even 8:10s for 13.1 miles.
For the most part, things were extremely uneventful early on. We kept things steady with a nice conversation. Shortly before the halfway mark, we saw Aimee coming down the out part of the out-and-back in this part of the race. We waved and continued on.
If we’re being honest, I was already not feeling anywhere near how I wanted to be feeling. I felt like I was working too hard for the pace we were keeping. While I still haven’t set an official goal for Grandma’s Marathon in two months, I do know it’ll be somewhere in this realm, plus/minus 10 seconds. Considering that, I need to be able to keep this pace with no problem for a half marathon. The fact that I couldn’t is a major concern.
As we approached back towards the Convention Hall for our pass-by of the finish line on the boardwalk, I was starting to have serious concerns about keeping the pace up. We weren’t even at nine miles yet. Lauren wasn’t feeling too great either. I knew it wasn’t going to be a fun last four miles.
After passing the finish line, for an out-and-back in the other direction from where we had just came, we hooked a right turn onto a 30ft patch OF FRIGGIN’ SAND! It was the worst surprise ever! That really sucked and I felt it in my legs for a few minutes afterwards. This was the final nail in the coffin for having any sort of a decent race. Lauren needed a walk break because of a side stitch and, since I already established we’re being totally honest here, I wasn’t really opposed to the idea. We walked for a few seconds and then started back up again, but it didn’t last long before we needed another break. This time, though, I decided to power on.
From this point on, my pace dropped to about 8:30. I just wanted things to be over. I was hot and not having fun anymore. After the last turnaround, I just did my best to keep up as I had been, but it was rough. As a final insult, the course took us BACK OVER THE DAMN SAND with only like a quarter mile left to go! Ah!
As I approached the finish, I didn’t really try to give much else for the finish. It didn’t feel worth it. There was a guy running next to me that I made sure to beat but that was about it.
I crossed the finish at 1:48:11 and was just glad it was over.
I grabbed some water and waited for Lauren to finish so we could lament about how much that sucked.
I really don’t know what to make of this. As I mentioned, if I want to hit the goal I’d like to be setting for Grandma’s, this race shouldn’t have been so difficult. On the other hand, it was hot. Take off 15-20º and I think this would have been a very different day. I’m just not acclimated yet. My hope is I’ll acclimate just fine over the next two months and then head off to Duluth to race and it’ll be a little cooler than back here. We’ll see how that works out. Besides, my legs felt totally fine afterwards and the day after the race, so that’s a solid indication I wasn’t anywhere near pushing them.
There’s also the fact that I didn’t really have a great week running at all last week and didn’t do any taper at all. All my runs were slow and tough. I was just tired and not on top of my game. I wasn’t super surprised the race didn’t go great. Taking the entirety of my training so far into account, I think my expectation that this wouldn’t be a difficult pace to keep was correct, rather than this being a huge wake up call.
And even on top of that, I haven’t actually raced any race since July of last year. I was a bit rusty going in so, at the least, it was good to have a race to just get the cobwebs out a bit.
Anyway, I’m still not setting a goal in stone for my marathon yet. I’m going to see how the rest of training goes and then make a decision.